News & Notes: Terrence Austin, Offensive Line, Terrelle Pryor And Much More
By ZAC BOYER | firstname.lastname@example.org
ASHBURN – The ability to return kickoffs and punts has made Terrence Austin valuable to the Washington Redskins.
At least, that’s the way Austin wants to see it.
“It’s helping,” the 5-foot-11, 175-pound wide receiver said Sunday. “It’s just definitely showing the coaches that I’m versatile and I’ve got some type of value. If I’m able to do that, I can show why I deserve to be on the team.”
Austin was electric as a returner at UCLA, where he returned a total of 95 punts over four years and 89 kickoffs in 2008 and 2009, his final two seasons. He returned four punts for 45 yards in the Redskins’ 16-3 victory at Indianapolis on Friday, including a 29-yard return with 8:59 to play in the first quarter, and served as the primary kick returner though both kickoffs went for touchbacks.
What Austin did differently Friday, though, was catch passes. Primarily a third-down receiver at UCLA, Austin, on the practice squad for much of last season, had just three catches for 42 yards. Against the Colts, Austin made three catches for 23 yards.
“I mean, I’ve been working pretty hard, and I got a little bit better, obviously, because I had a lot more work to do [after] last year,” Austin said. “I got with coach Keenan [McCardell, the wide receivers coach], and did a lot of work on the practice squad last year and just started learning a little bit more about playing and learning my craft at wide receiver.”
The opportunity for Austin to serve in both roles came Friday as the result of Brandon Banks’ knee injury. Banks, the primary returner, had a 19-yard punt return and a 58-yard punt return Aug. 12 against Pittsburgh, but swelling in his surgically repaired left knee kept him out of the Indianapolis game.
Austin also returned a kickoff for a touchback in that game and caught two passes for 46 yards, including a 38-yard reception from Rex Grossman in the second quarter.
“I’ve always been catching punts in practice,” Austin said. “That’s something you’ve got to keep practicing. I mean, that’s one of the toughest catches in football, so if you shy away from that for a while, it’s going to be tough getting back into it. I’ve been practicing, and so I didn’t lose a step at all.”
- The returns of free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, inside linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Josh Wilson to practice on Sunday bode well for the Redskins going into Thursday’s game at Baltimore. What doesn’t help, though, is the setback sustained by LaRon Landry, who was scheduled to return to practice but didn’t after experiencing an issue with a hamstring during the trip to Indianapolis.
The Redskins would like to have their starting secondary back by the start of the regular season Sept. 11 at home against the Giants, but with Landry out for an indeterminate period of time, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him remain on the physically-unable-to-perform list until the season begins.
- Elsewhere, defensive end Adam Carriker, replaced in the starting lineup against Indianapolis by rookie Jarvis Jenkins because of blisters on his feet, did not practice Sunday and instead rode the stationary bike. He said afterward he could have played had it been a regular-season game. Running back Ryan Torain (left hand) was still limited, while wide receivers Banks (knee) and Malcolm Kelly (foot) and tight end Chris Cooley (left knee) did not participate. Shanahan said Banks is undergoing platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment for his left knee, and Kelly, who recently had an MRI return negative for any fractures, could be out at least another week. Cooley refused questions when asked for an update, instead heading into the training room.
- Torain said that despite his history of injuries, he always tries to remain upbeat. “It doesn’t get frustrating,” Torain said. “You’ve got to stay positive and keep working hard. You know, everything will work itself out.”
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Torain has battled an assortment of afflictions since his college days. He tore the ACL in his left knee, strained the PCL in his right and broke a bone in his left elbow during his two seasons with Denver in 2008 and 2009, and battled various knee, ankle and hip injuries during his previous two seasons at Arizona State.
- Confusing part of the day: seeing linebacker Edgar Jones, who was concussed against Indianapolis, walk to his locker looking half-asleep, his eyes barely open and obviously battling the effects of the concussion, turn around to answer a request from a television cameraman about an interview and then have the bright light turn on right in his face. Great foresight there, buddy.
- The Redskins had their practice called due to thunderstorms after just about two hours. It came at a good time – Shanahan said the team only missed out on its final three defensive plays and a 10-minute special teams period.
- Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, who, yes, actually did start at the position against the Colts, contrary to the televised broadcast, has enjoyed the pace of play the offense, and the offensive line in particular, has maintained this year. Of particular excitement was running back Tim Hightower’s 58-yard run on the second play of the game.
“I think what we need to work on is consistency,” Lichtensteiger said. “We had a few big runs, but I think on a down-to-down basis, we need five, six, seven yards instead of just one yard or no gain and then 50 yards. We need to stretch that out and be consistent.” The offensive line does have one area of work – conditioning. “We were feeling it last game, that’s for sure,” Lichtensteiger said. “We had 41 plays at the half, so it pretty much felt like a whole game for us when we pulled our shoulder pads off at halftime. It’s definitely something good for us to see at this point where our conditioning has to be in order for us to be successful.”
- Also of note: Lichtensteiger said the Redskins are actually preparing a complete game plan for Thursday’s third preseason game at Baltimore. The strategy falls in line with the typical preparation for the third week of the preseason, when starters play upward of three quarters and the goal is to win the game, not just evaluate players.
- Speaking of evaluating players, the Redskins were among 17 teams represented at a workout held Saturday by former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor near his hometown of Jeanette, Pa. Pryor, ineligible to return for his senior year, was declared eligible for Monday’s supplemental draft late last week. The Redskins view him as a potential long-term project who could take two to three years to develop, though Pryor is not expected to be chosen by anyone before the fifth round. He also has to deal with the specter of a five-game suspension handed down by the NFL, tracing back to his transgressions at Ohio State.
- Kellen Clemens, trying to make his case to be the Redskins’ starting quarterback but still a distinct third at this point, said picking up the offense after five seasons with the Jets is like learning a new language.
“It’s a really good analogy, because football’s been around so long and there are only so many different plays you can call, only so many ways you can run. Power football, zone football, the zone action game, nakeds – there’s only so many concepts with the Xs and Os. It’s about how coaches call it. It’s how you relay it to the guys in the huddle that’s different. I’m speaking German for a while and now I’m speaking something else. It’s coming along. It’s all carryover for me, which has helped.”
- The relationship between Grossman and Jabar Gaffney trails all the way back to their time together at Florida in 2000 and 2001. Gaffney has since played with several other quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, but said John Beck differs from them all. “He’s a gamer,” Gaffney said. “From everything that we do in practice, he’s a totally different guy out there on the field in a game. Just his energy level picked up a lot, and that kind of surprised me. It’s a good thing.”
- Rather than having to reduce their rosters from 90 to 75 by mid-day Aug. 30, teams will only have to cut 10 players, down to 80, that day. Rosters still must be finalized by Sept. 3, at which point they must be trimmed to 53.
- The 50th annual Redskins Welcome Home Luncheon will take place Wednesday at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fans can have lunch with current and former players and coaches. Tickets are $175 and are available through Monday by visiting redskins.com/community.